In the fall of 2007 I experienced a bit of a personal cultural renaissance. It was a particularly academically rigorous semester and I spent a lot of time studying at Quills, a newly opened coffeeshop in Germantown. It served Sunergos Coffee (already a favorite of mine), but had better seating and was half the distance from the dorms. It also may have been the hippest place in Louisville. While studying at Quills, I learned about fixed gear bikes, dubstep, latte art, and made a bunch of cool friends I could be cool by association with. I also discovered a lot of amazing music, such as The Album Leaf and The Innocence Mission, mostly because of the impeccable music tastes of the baristas. One of those baristas was Daniel Dixon. Shortly after he told me about Birds Of My Neighborhood, Daniel moved to Portland to make his own career in music. After that, I didn’t hear about him again.
That is, until last week when I stumbled upon his debut LP Take Care online. As I began streaming the first track “Long Way Round”, I couldn’t help but think, Daniel made a really good decision.
Take Care is a well crafted, life-worn album that explores disappointment, contentment, and rest. The second track, “I Can’t Hear You”, in many ways encapsulates the entire album: Dixon copes with unrealized ambitions by finding some inexplicable source of solace and contentment. He sings “We’re not those things that we used to dream/we’ve dropped those big thoughts and ideas.” Ever the optimist (even if a very melancholic one), he continues, “do the best with what we’re handed/ don’t take pride as though we planned it / I don’t want for more than I can hold”
Dixon is at his brightest (and best) on “Lie Down”. It’s as though for one song Dixon has managed to escape (or ignore) his forlorn introspection, and once again naively view the world, perhaps inspired by the presence of a lover or simply the soothing affect of nature. As the song crescendos it turns from romance to reverence as he is moved to join with creation in worship.
But grief is often cyclical and Dixon is soon facing his struggles once again, as he sings on “Casting Away”: “These demons never seem to stray very far, they hide in the corner and catch me off guard,” Nevertheless, Dixon resolutely promises, “It’s hard to get a hold of yourself this late in the game/ But someday I’ll do good.”
Perhaps the closest Dixon comes to making peace with himself is “Find a Way.” “I’m not excited in the ways I was before/ And all the passions are beginning to grow up … In the empty space something is growing up/ it doesn’t have a name, it doesn’t have a face.” Here is a message that most of us can relate to- no it didn’t work out like I hoped, but it’s okay.
In all, what makes “Take Care” so compelling is Dixon’s superb songwriting and arrangement. Dixon has the innate ability to take you into his world- you feel his listlessness, his discouragement, and his joy. His whispery vocals and finger-picked guitar create a sense of intimacy while simple but dynamic piano and percussion add an emotional depth. An excellent debut album from a gifted troubadour. I hope the first of many more to come.